You know that something is becoming mainstream when it shows up in Microsoft Windows - and that's precisely what's happened in the most recent release of Windows, 8.1. Does this mean any Windows computer can now 3D print? Not exactly - this announcement is really for software developers.
Microsoft announced a set of standard APIs for 3D printing. This means that Windows applications now can safely call 3D printing drivers using a standard protocol, if the developers choose to include that functionality in their applications.
For manufacturers of 3D printers, it means changes. Their device drivers must (or at least should) use the new protocols. We suspect application and driver updates could take many months before they're release, although some early adopters include PP3DP and MakerBot, who will likely have their versions out soon.
So can you 3D print from a Windows application? Only if the following is true:
- You're on Windows 8.1 or better
- The Windows application you're using produces a 3D model
- The Windows application implements a "3D Print" function that uses the new APIs
- You've installed the Windows drivers for your 3D printer
- The drivers can use the new protocols
- You own a 3D printer and it's attached to the Windows machine
If those are all set up correctly you should be able to 3D print directly from a Windows application.
If there's filament in your 3D printer. Oops.
Via Ars Technica